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30 Best-Sellers in 3 Years

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 Click now to edit your work like a professional ...

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Discover why so many businesses failed last year ...

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The Write Way

5 June 2009

We're a Weird Mob ...


You may (just may) have heard me mention this once or twice in the course of our acquaintance (because it's true) ... we really are a weird mob. And I was reminded of this yet again when Albert (one of our Merry Band) sent me a short article about a book called “Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin. (To be honest, neither of us has read the book, just the review by Verlyn Klinkenborg who writes, "(Grandin) suggests that the purpose of the big human brain isn’t to gather sensory data about the world around it but to filter it out. Humans don’t have raw access to the input from our senses the way animals do... . We see in patterns, abstractly — just what we expect to see."

We've pondered this ability to filter out unwanted data before, when we delved into the fascinating world of our "reticular activating system" and got to know what pareidolia is all about. Suffice to say that the human brain is a complex little entrée -- even without the crumbs and parsley sauce. (And ugh! No, I've never eaten brains ... There's something very macabre about eating the control centre of another living creature ... even worse than feasting on its flesh or vital organs.)

So you'll know what I'm talking about when I remind you of those times when you're chatting with people and start to tell them about a place you've been or a person you've met or something you've seen, and you know you know the word, but you can't for the life of you dredge it up out of your memory banks.

Annoying, isn't it?

Almost as annoying (but very weird) is the way that missing word will suddenly pop into your memory when you're in the middle of doing something completely unrelated. And it seems that letting the puppy loose is the only way to make this thing work. The more you screw up your face and concentrate and get yourself all hyped up about not being able to remember, the less chance you have of recalling that wayward word; but let your mind wander and bounce around from thought to thought like a puppy after a soap bubble, and suddenly ... there it is! The elusive word, sitting meekly at your feet and looking up at you with big, innocent eyes ...

Since we've all experienced this very thing, I thought it was about time we had a word for it, and the word came to me one night last week when I was desperately trying to take my own advice and let my mind wander instead of pounding my forehead and berating myself with, "Come on, you goose! You know the word ... you've used it a dozen times ... It's a bit like "kudos," but that's not it ...Think, damn you, think!" (The word I was hunting was the word that describes the excessive pride or self-confidence that leads us to thumb our noses at the gods ... that feeling we wallow in the split second before the gods look down and say, "Oops, missed one ...")

So there I was, tossing and turning as I tried to recall the word when I decided I should follow my own advice and think about something else ... and Brad Pitt still being involved with the Woman-with-Lips, I opted instead to try to find a word to describe the process we go through when trying to come up with a lost word.

Since you're already familiar with the odd ways my tiny brain works, I'm not embarrassed to let you accompany me in this replay ... Actually, there was no ordered process, just a sudden rush of thoughts that included: "my best mate Google ... using your noggin ... using your noodle ..." and this led straight to the neologism that I hope will take the world by storm ...


Try it on for size:

"I can't think of that word!"

"Why don't you noogle it, then ..."

Hmmm ... OK, so maybe it needs a little refinement, but I definitely think I'm onto something here.

It appears that if we are to follow Grandin's argument, we need to realise that our brains are there not to receive all the sensory messages we come across every day, but to filter out the non-essentials, and when you stop and think about it, she's right!

Look about yourself right now ... how many messages are bombarding your senses as you sit at your 'puter? There will be noise of some sort ... from a radio, TV, computer, people around you.

There will be smells ... of cooking, coffee, cars, furniture polish, manufacturing processes ... depending on where your desk is.

There will be sight messages ... the room, the contents of the room ... thousands upon thousands of objects all vying for your attention ... "Look at me!" they all scream, "Look at me!" The area outside the room could be a garden or a busy street, again with thousands of objects demanding you notice them.

There may be other people with their clothes and belongings, all talking to you, moving about, with perfumes and after-shave lotions wafting about them ....

Your body will be subjected to all sorts of sensations as it touches the floor and various points on the furniture ... are you sitting on a soft cushion or a hard chair? Are you comfortably warm or is there a cold draught? Is it stuffy and hot?

And that's not even considering all the emotional messages bombarding you ... Are you upset after a disagreement with a family member, a run-in on the train or in the car-park? Are you worried about the economy and your job security? Are you eagerly anticipating the chance to talk (and flirt ... let's be honest here) with a co-worker? Are you ... Well, we could go on forever, couldn't we?

So how does that mush of little grey cells ensconced in your scone cope?

By filtering out all the extraneous messages. Otherwise we'd all be battier than we are now!

One thing that can help to keep you sane (or drive you battier faster) is your job. What do you do all day? This week's Little Something Extra has some interesting things to say about what we do ...

And that word I was trying to think of? It's this week's Word of the Week, so we should all remember it from now on!

You'll need to be in your prime to appreciate this next story ... If you're not, ask your mother to explain it ...

A traveller in the Himalayas came upon a great gathering of holy men, philosophers and aspiring Buddhas. They represented all aspects of belief and seeking, including one aged guru who was reputed to have achieved nirvana by subsisting entirely on a diet of asparagus.

Our traveller was astonished when, in a sudden mountain shower, all of the participants in this conclave were drenched, except the asparagus-eater. The rain simply avoided falling on him, as if he were roofed.

"That's incredible," said the traveller.

"Not at all," said his native guide. "Bliss is the awning of the Sage of Asparagus."


Have Your Say

Our Map of the World feature has been a popular way for members of our Merry Band to comment about Write101 over the years - the disadvantage has been that it only retains 100 entries, so many of you have had to return frequently to keep posting. But now, thanks to my best mate Google, there's a way for everyone to participate.

Leave a comment here and it won't disappear after a couple of weeks. (Remember that I trawl such entries for comments to put up on the site, as you'll see when you visit ...)

And you can also:

  • join the Write101 community and meet others who share your love of language
  • post questions and contribute answers about all sorts of writing-related matters
  • recommend different pages to other visitors with the click of a Recommend it! button
  • browse recommended pages submitted by others

If you have a couple of minutes to spare this weekend, drop by and have your say and don't forget to join the Write101 community. You'll find the new toys on the Home page. 

This week's quiz:

And let's just see how much extraneous matter your brain has filtered out over the years and how many useless ... er ... interesting facts it's retained. Match up these odd words:

moirologist, moue, discombobulate, prosopagnosia, borborygmus, pseudandry, schadenfreude, somniferous, obambulate, cacology

1. causing or inducing sleep

2. malicious joy in the misfortunes of others

3. inability to recognise familiar faces

4. to walk about

5. a hired mourner

6. poor choice of words; incorrect pronunciation

7. to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate

8. pout; grimace

9. a rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines

10. use of a male name as a pseudonym by a woman

This next little story was sent to me by a friend who is actually a lawyer, but if you're a lawyer without a sense of humour, skip this ...

One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the road-side eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?"

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you," the lawyer said.

"But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree."

"Bring them along," the lawyer replied.

Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us, also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, "But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all, as well," the lawyer answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.

Once under way, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The lawyer replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place ... The grass is almost a foot high!"

No, don't grizzle and grumble to me ... I did warn you ...


Last week's quiz:

Choose the odd word in each set:

1. accost, waylay, IGNORE, confront

2. DENY, allege, claim, assert

3. responsive, INTRACTABLE, amenable, agreeable

4. indifference, unconcern, PASSION, apathy

5. aptitude, AWKWARDNESS, talent, gift

6. stratagem, TRUTH, trick, artifice

7. AGGRAVATE, assuage, soothe, alleviate

8. mental, PHYSICAL, intellectual, cognitive

9. complete, round out, complement, DETRACT

10.complicity, DISTANCE, conniving, scheme

And here's something you may not know ...

Artifacts are a major portion of an American-Indian reservation's economy. Annually, thousands of tourists visit reservations and most will not leave without purchasing at least one memento of the traditional Indian culture. One enterprising Indian was able to outsell his competitors in the sale of wooden dolls by selling them at only a fraction of the cost others had to charge.

On examination of his dolls, inspectors found that where traditionally hard wood was used, this Indian would use cheap pine on which he glued thin pieces of fine mahogany, thus being able to produce the dolls at only a fraction of the cost. While he claimed his doll was still authentic, his competitors complained that it was only a cheap Sioux Veneer.

A Little Something Extra

The World's Best Business?

by John Forde

You've heard about the oldest profession. And I'm guessing you know the toughest, too (parenting).

What's the most dangerous? Fishing, believe it or not. Along with logging and flying airplanes.

The worst pay, alas, goes to dishwashers and fry cooks, who scrape the bottom of the income barrel.

If you'd rather earn the big bucks, says a Forbes survey, you're better off learning to knock people out.

No, not as a boxer – as an anesthesiologist.

Heart surgeons and OB/GYNs are also way up there, along with 11 other medical careers, your average lawyer, CEOs, and even air traffic controllers.

But what could be the world's BEST business?

Click to find out the world's best business.


Did you know that every newsletter is archived? So if you've missed anything since 1998 or want to revisit some favourites, you can do so any time!  

Don't forget to bookmark the page when you get there ... or even make it your Home Page. (For Internet Explorer, just click on Tools ... Internet Options ... General ... fill in and click OK. For Netscape, select Edit ... Preferences. Then select Navigator from the left menu, click Home Page and enter the URL above next to Location and click OK. For all the flash new browsers, you'll have to do a search on my mate google to find what to do. There's a search box on the archives page!)

Subscribe Here and Be Bribed!

If you've received this little missive from a friend, you can get your very own issue, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every Friday morning by clicking here: And I'm even prepared to offer a shameless bribe.  

Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

Map of the World

I often trawl this for comments to post on my site ... so if you say something about the newsletter or site, be warned, you may end up being read by one of the 2,000+ unique visitors who visit Write101 every day! Make your Mark on the World. Then stop by our Map of the World and read the messages. (Just click List) and add your mark.

Word of the week: Hubris (n) overbearing pride or presumption; excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance

This extremely useful word comes from from the Greek word hybris meaning 'wanton violence, insolence, outrage,' originally 'presumption toward the gods.'

Oxymoron of the week: almost everything

And a Latin phrase that fits nicely with our Little Something Extra (and the new Star Trek movie!)

Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit

[AHD AY-oon-doom KWOH NAY-moh AHN-tee EE-it]

(To boldly go where no man has gone before)

Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? 

Kind regards,


P.S. Want to donate to the upkeep of this newsletter? Just $17 a year seems a small price to pay for all this wit and wisdom, don't you think? C'mon, that's just a tad more than 30 cents a week!

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